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Smart Advice – August 26, 2010

Advice From the Top

Nate Smith, president, Oceanic Time Warner Cable | Photo: David Croxford

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself during your career? 

It sounds cliché and it’s easier said than done, but the most effective way of leading is to trust being yourself instead of what you think other people want. For the most part, people read others well. For example, trying to act highly empathetic when it’s not your nature is actually much more deleterious to people’s perception of you than just being who you are.

Upper management can be pretty lonely. How do you know who you can trust or surround yourself with?

If you’re consistent about how you relate with people, they’ll be consistent about how they relate to you. The more distrustful you are of them, the more they will be that way with you. Obviously, a positive orientation generates a positive response. There are exceptions, but you definitely don’t want to define your whole approach around the exceptions.

What is your business philosophy?

A successful CEO said that his philosophy on trying new things was if an initiative blows up on your ship, just make sure it’s above the waterline. A perceptive comment, because corporate culture too often advances people who point out others’ mistakes, which is a death knell to maintaining an innovative spirit. My philosophy is that you cannot improve on something until you start doing it.

Your father was very influential in your life. What was his best piece of advice?

Take responsibility for one’s actions. It’s never somebody else’s fault.

Advice from the Top

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